Welcome to the Mad and Crip Theology Podcast, hosted by Miriam Spies and Amy Panton, which comes out of the Canadian Journal of Theology, Mental Health and Disability. On today’s episode of the Mad and Crip Theology Podcast we talk to Alisha Krisna who is on the Board of Directors of Students for Barrier-Free Access (SBA), a non-profit University of Toronto student levy organization that represents mad and disabled students. Alisha was kind enough to sit down with us to discuss the University of Toronto's Mandated Leave of Absence Policy (UMLAP), which is a forced leave of absence for students experiencing mental distress. The Policy stigmatizes mad students and, according to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, "falls short on its duty to accommodate students with mental health disabilities and addictions." We stand in solidarity with SBA as they work to resist UMLAP. You can read more about SBA's position on UMLAP here: https://uoftsba.wordpress.com/campaigns-adovcacy/umlap/
If you would like captions, you can watch the podcast on our Youtube page at this link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRUW9z5hoqP_WK74hg3N8bQ
This podcast is an opportunity to model how faith communities can engage in theological and spiritual conversations around madness and cripness. If you need a full transcript you can find videos on our Youtube channel and here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRUW9z5hoqP_WK74hg3N8bQ
We want to say that topics and conversations we are raising throughout our time together are often hard! They are hard for mad and crip people ourselves and hard for our families and loved ones. So, do what you need to do to take care of yourselves, your bodies, minds, and hearts.
Welcome to the Mad and Crip Theology Podcast hosted by Miriam Spies and and Amy Panton which comes out of the Canadian Journal of Theology Mental Health and Disability. We both live and work on lands that have been homes and remain homes to the Mississaugas of the Credit the Haudenosaunee the Huron Wendat the Neutral and the Ojibway/Chippewa peoples and other peoples who have cared for the land. We are grateful for the opportunity to live and work on this land and are mindful for the need to repair broken covenants. This podcast is an opportunity to model how faith communities can engage in theological and spiritual conversations around madness and cripness. If you need a full transcript you can find our videos on our youtube channel. We want to say before we begin that topics and conversations we are raising throughout our time together are often hard they are hard for mad and crip people ourselves and hard for our families and loved ones. So do what you need to do to take care of yourselves your body's minds and hearts and now here is our episode. All right well thank you so much Alicia for being with us here today we really appreciate you taking the time to come and talk with us and so it is our third podcast that we're recording today and it has been so much fun meeting with people and talking to them about what's going on in their in their spaces what kind of advocacy work they're doing in the disability world, in the mad world so for today we're going to be talking about something that's pretty specific to the University of Toronto and we hope that it will start to spark some thoughts about how mad and disabled students are being treated within the university context.
So we asked Alicia if they would come and talk to us they are with Students for Barrier-Free Access at the University of Toronto and so Alicia I'm just going to invite you to introduce yourself if you wouldn't mind just letting us know your name and your pronouns your academic and professional location if that's something you don't mind sharing and then what is your connection to madness and disability. I'll just pop that into the chat for you sure um thanks for having me first of all I'm excited to be here um my name is Alicia Krishna I use they/them pronouns I'm currently a first-year well (oh God) ex-first year law student at the faculty here but I did my cinema undergrad at U of T St George as well uh so I've been here for a very long time. My connection to madness/disability I also identify as disabled um and uh in many ways so uh...varied I guess that's what I would say what my connection is.
Okay yeah thanks so much for that and uh we have a connection because I also went to film school like way back when the dinosaurs were roaming the earth in my undergrad I went and studied film so that's awesome very cool. Maybe Miriam and I can say a little bit about ourselves just because this is the first time that the three of us have met so um I am a phd candidate at Emmanuel College which is a part of the Toronto School of Theology and my research my dissertation work is on the intersection between madness and spirituality I'm especially looking at - I'm reading memoirs of people who have lived experience of self-injury and thinking about how what their spirituality is like, their lived spirituality is like so that's my major project and I also work as an instructor in the Masters of Pastoral Studies program at Emmanuel College which is primarily made up of students who want to become registered psychotherapists in Ontario so it's really fun. Very cool! I'm Miriam Spies I use she/her pronouns, and I'm also a phd student at Emmanuel College part of Toronto School of Theology and a bunch of other acronyms! I'm looking at the leadership and ministry of disabled clergy
specifically in the United Church of Canada so that's what is there my days doing when I'm not doing the journal.
Yeah and we just launched the journal we put out our first issue last month so it's been really fun um a lot of the times i think we felt like we were flying by the seat of our pants a little bit but um yeah we're just so excited to be able to publish work by students and faculty members and other members of the disability community in Canada mostly we also do like publish art and poetry and all kinds of fun stuff like that and for today um Alicia we wanted you we're hoping you could come and talk to us about like i said in the intro about um a disability justice issue that's happening at the University of Toronto, so let's dive in. So Alicia can you give us a brief overview of what students for barrier-free access does for mad and disabled students at the University of Toronto? Yeah so um SBA just for ease i'm going to call it that so SBA is a group that's funded by student levies through the UTSU and the UT GSU on campus here we advocate for disabled students we also focus a lot on like skill building for our disabled members and capacity building community building. We also do a bit of work about like educating the general public NOT awareness *education* um and we usually work in solidarity with other equity-seeking groups on campus because we really we really realize that like disability justice isn't just one thing it's also like anti-racism work and anti-transphobia work and that kind of thing. Awesome that's so great um and for yourself what's your role within SBA? Yeah so I've actually been on the Board for three years right now I am the co-chair and treasurer and I also help with staff management at the center. Okay and and so we talked a little bit about your connection to disability before but why did you want to get involved with sba? You know what it was actually like pure chance like I did not plan it i knew somebody who was like "hey you should come and meet this person with me" and i went and met our um previous advocacy coordinator in the center and i was immediately like just drawn to the space and i don't almost entirely on impulse is like yeah this is something i want to be a part of um and then i kind of just found the community and um i learned like really amazing things that you really can't get in a classroom and like my undergrad education was so augmented by my work with SBA that i just never left so um that's kind of why i was involved in how i ended up here. Oh it's great sounds like it's a really good fit for you i love it when stuff like that happens in life that's so cool. So for today we wanted to pick through the unit the university mandated leave of absence policy so the acronym is u-m-l-a-p and how do we pronounce it is it "um lap" or "oom lap" i was i wasn't sure. Uh yeah i heard it both ways i say "um-lap." Okay all right so we're going to be talking about UMLAP today um and i wonder if you could just help our listeners to understand what UMLAP is. Yeah so it's essentially a policy that is supposed to stand apart from the penal sanctions from the student code of conduct to be used in cases of disability um or like where there's a health concern or something medical related it essentially allows the university to place students on involuntary leave um and it applies to two situations so first if there's a risk of harm to other students that situation is kind of split into two sections where there's a future risk of harm that's likely or an immediate situation and second if the student isn't able to fulfill the essential academic requirements of their program they mention a bunch of times that the second situation is only to be applied after accommodations have been offered we'll get to that but really what they've been saying is that the purpose of the policy is sort of twofold um it's supposed to allow the university to address like risks of harm to the students and also to give students struggling academically the chance to leave the university without the penal sanction so they you can actually take if you're placed on the mandated leave you don't get any marks on your transcript um there is also a provision for voluntary leave here which is important because it's not a departmental policy so this kind of sits on top of all the departments and governs the entire university and so because of this policy you're allowed to take a volunteer leave however that is not the focus of this policy and again we'll talk about that later um the U of T has said that this is a sort of so the mandated leave is a sort of last resort um but the problem here and our main issue is that there's very little given in the way of accommodations and like health care and that kind of thing and so the last resort is actually a more prescient danger to students than they may realize um and like i say this because a lot of their marketing for this policy is framed as a "compassionate response" but that actually just means not like a leave without an academic mark on your like a penal mark on your transcript not that they're in they're compassionate in any other way it's purely like an administrative thing. Right yeah yeah and i think i can speak as a student who's gone through the process of getting accommodations through disability services and it's not easy it's really not easy i know some of the documentation you sent me just to review uh for this for this interview today one of the concerns that students had raised at a recent town hall which again we'll get to later um was that how inaccessible accessibility services is ironically and um this whole miriam and i talk a lot about this concept of coming out crip or coming out mad um and the fact that you have to out number one out yourself but also like um for me i just found it was like i had to jump through so many hoops uh and even like after i jumped through every hoop just asking for things basic stuff like getting a note taker in class was like i had asked for like i don't know some obscene thing like nobody wanted to do it and the professors weren't really willing to help so i can understand um frustration that a lot of the students feel because they've been some of my own.
Yeah and what's important for um like the exercise of accommodations is that um the central accommodation system really has no like enforcement power they can just recommend stuff to professors but at the end of the day like "academic freedom" will win so things like recording lectures like the law faculty has a strict policy not recording even though it's an accommodation or whatever so yeah yeah there's a lot wow yeah you might get here but so if i'm jumping ahead what can you talk about like why why Uof T has this policy and what do they gain from this? Yeah um i mean i would be speculating here uh just because they haven't come out and said these things but we really um can't see any other reason for this especially given the way that it's written the situation the the stuff that applies to like risks and like threats of harm to students seems to be more about covering um their basis for liability reasons and there's there seems to be a sense and and this is also speaking to stuff that's been happening in the US too because there's a lot of schools there with comparable policies and so there's more like case law there's more lawsuits in the states where the situation is a bit more public and so i'm sort of equating the two and but there is a lack of willingness to sort of question and interrogate their idea of risk and threat um and so like even if there's like a slightest possibility of something going wrong they won't like ask very deeply about what they can do to sort of have the student remain in the community but also like address the problem um in terms of the essential academic requirements that is actually legal language that comes from the idea of the duty to accommodate so there's like duty to accommodate to the point of undue hardship except for like bona fide requirements and so like essential academic requirements are these these limits on the thing except for the fact that there's no standard for assessing what is an essential academic requirement and one of the one of the huge problems with this policy is that it actually begins with the divisions and this is something that the admin is really not like taking into account admin review team i should say um because they're saying like the OVPS is fine that's the government that's at the top the OVPS might be okay but the people assessing what's an essential academic requirement actually start at the divisions um and i get the sense that a lot of the division leaders sort of see any sort of accommodations as like a weakness or inherent like inadequacy of a student it won't vary but like won't really deeply engage with alternate ways of satisfying the actual thing if they don't have to and like there's no requirement for that and there's no like force for that at the divisional level like you you can't use for example downtown legal services you can't access their representation until you're appealing to the tribunal and so or the yeah so there's a lot of stuff that happens that you're kind of on your own um and so yeah that's that's what i would it's a long answer i'm sorry i sort of rambled. But it's okay we are the most rambling ramblers you'll ever meet so don't worry! It's important. For sure. Are there any other canadian universities that have policies that are similar to this that you know of? Yeah so like we've just started our research on this we've been sort of dealing with the very condensed timeline for the town halls and then exams and so now we're getting back to it um but we do know that McMaster for example has a policy of addressing like behavior that they call it "behavior related to a health condition" but it's within their code of conduct and like not as the UMLAP stands like a separate thing so it's unclear like the actual process that McMaster follows but we're looking into it. As for policies separate from the code of conduct Concordia implemented a policy in August of 2020 and it looks very similar to the UMLAP with a couple of differences the other thing is in 2019 McGill was undergoing a policy drafting process but actually put it on hold due to student criticism and so we couldn't find anything more recent so for all we know it has actually stopped we've reached out to the student advocacy groups on these campuses specifically like concordia and mcgill so we hope to like work with them in the future and sort of find out what happened with their campaigns. We are also looking into Brock Guelph and York and yeah yeah more research should be done Yeah i guess this is more of like a more of like a like a "zooming out" kind of question but why do you think this is happening now? Like why i guess my interest in in in wondering about this is because i think um some of my my dissertation work thinks about like the history of madness history of mental illness and you know the creation of the DSM and all this stuff and now we've gotten to the point where um so many people are receiving diagnoses and do you think it has to do with like that kind of upward trajectory of diagnoses becoming more i don't want to use the word popular but more like "normalized" for people or do you think it is just
university trying to yeah cover their butt i don't even know if that's even the right way to put it but... Yeah i mean i actually don't i don't know i don't know why i will say that the UMLAPisn't a new thing so it was briefly mentioned in an Ombudsperson's report i can't tell you the actual year off the top of my head but several years before the first draft was sort of rumored i think there was like a two year difference and then the draft was circulated towards the end of 2017 and released publicly at the start of 2018 and then revised and approved i think in june 2018 so it's not like very very recent it's just that this is kind of the second chance to raise feedback and criticism um so we're kind of in part two of this.
Well that's helpful.
So i want to ask you a little bit about the Ontario Human Rights Commission so you talked a little bit about the history of UMLAP and it turns out that the Ontario Human Rights Commission had urged the university to NOT approve the policy in 2018 and you know after doing a little bit of reading well actually i lie i haven't been doing a little bit of reading when i found out about this in 2018 i was like i can't believe - i was horrified number one - so i brought this, i wrote it like a report and brought it to our Graduate Student Association at the at the Toronto School of Theology and i mean i think other people cared but there wasn't really much they could do so it just kind of got my work got kind of filed somewhere in some lovely filing cabinet and then i thought well now we have the journal let's do something let's try to do something else let's try to raise some awareness on this again! But any anyway sorry i digress so the two things that the or the three things that the Ontario Human Rights Commission was concerned about in 2018 was that number one it was about "the policy falls short on its duty to accommodate students with mental health disabilities and also students with addictions" and then the one that really makes me kind of queasy is "the policy appears to allow decisions made by university administrators who do not have any specialized training on human rights or risk assessment and does not require the university to seek objective information from an expert about the specific risk posed" like for example they don't have to involve a medical professional and then also they were concerned about the "university's ability to withdraw care" so we could probably go into this a bit more deeply but this idea of like students are basically ripped from their support systems they might rely on like you know their benefits through the university like i do in order to access therapy or whatever and all those things would be taken away housing etc so one of the questions i have for you which is kind of like an again like a more of like i don't know an "existential question" or just like "why is the world like this?" kind of question is like if they if those these concerns were raised like why the hell would the university still go ahead with this? Yeah so i mean again i can't really speak to their like deep seated motives for this policy like at its root but i do know that they between before the OHRC's letter and after the OHRC's letter they added a lot of language that like uses the phrases like to accommodate and like the university respects its obligations and that kind of thing but it's not like again at its root it's kind of like slapping a band-aid on like a horrible wound here and so like there are a couple things here like the university like i was saying is aware of the identical policies in American schools and they're also aware of the the like harsh criticism that has been raised and also like the very real harms that have you know like that these policies have caused students and the second leave policy is structured so as to place the burden of compliance primarily on the student so a lot of the language is like um the student will be subjected to a mandated leave if they refuse to comply with accommodations provided but they never actually ask or require themselves to like interrogate why the student is not complying and whether or not that speaks to sort of failure of understanding on their part and and you know they're kind of missing the point here because if they really wanted to give students the option to take a health leave like they say that it's a compassionate response they would have you know emphasized voluntarily leave portion and not the mandated one and also there's some sort of there's these mechanisms in the unlock policy that allow like class 76 for example allows the administrators to convert a voluntary leave into a mandated one um which is scary um and and in addition like voluntary leaves also have re-entry conditions and it's not exactly clear why like that is if it is compassionate and so they're the the release like the new policy that we're currently under right now sort of speaks to the OHRC's letters like on the face of the problem but doesn't actually address like the root understanding that sort of governs throughout which is that um the disabled student like doesn't know what's best for themselves and that the admin knows better and like what we're saying is that it's inherently at odds with like compassion as it's understood by like regular people and so to answer your original question i don't know why they started doing this policy but they went ahead with it because they feel they've addressed the OHRC's concerns and we're saying they have not.
Yes i totally agree that they have not. One of the things that you that SBA has urged people within the community to do is to write letters to key administrators at U of T who are sort of in charge of the UMLAp to express concerns about the direct and indirect impact of the policy on the student population so do you know how the campaign's been going? Have a lot of people been getting on board? Yeah so we're not sure about how many people actually sent a letter but that is has not been our focus um for the early part of the campaign we got a lot of requests from students who actually felt like unsafe um going to town halls and didn't have the capacity to sort of write in um the OVPS had this like document submission thing that you could have like written the complaint to you and so they didn't feel safe doing that so like we wrote something that they could give in lieu of participating or modify as they saw fit and so that wasn't a major focus of the early part but that being said have gotten an outpouring of student support from our like in the the incredible labor from our membership just because the idea that students can be placed on mandated leave is like really striking a nerve with a student body that is just so tired with the like open hostility that we experience from the admin on like a daily basis and so people are like really fired up we've also gotten support from other campus groups and significantly external organizations we've contacted a couple of we're in the process of contacting other schools like i said um other disability organizations and some legal organizations who weren't contacted the first time around and so we're trying to sort of expand our outreach efforts while also sort of telling everybody that we're back again doing the same thing here but the admin has told us that they will resume their consultation process in september and so we've taken the chance like our big worry is that we will sort of lose momentum over the summer and so we're taking the chance to sort of educate students about what the policy is the legal implications what the rights are so that they can participate in the town halls what's notable is that in every single town hall every single conversation every time the advent has interacted with the students there has been like a demand for some sort of companion guide for the students who don't necessarily have the tools to engage with policy language and so we're sort of inserting ourselves there and saying like you know here's what your rights actually are to sort of prepare for the next round of consultations in the new year. Wow it sounds like it would be really helpful and really needed that's great work you're doing there yeah thank you yeah thanks!!
Okay so i wanted to pivot a little bit and talk about the mandated leave now like in 2021 because we just sort of did a little bit of looking back on how it's been since 2018. So i was reading, i read the Varsity every week just because you know some of the articles are good and they had recently put out a couple of articles about that like summarize what's happening with UMLAP - okay so i'm just gonna read a quote from the Varsity article right now so all right so they explained that the UMLAP has been invoked a total of nine times from 2018 to 2020, eight times in the 2018 to 2019 academic year and once in 2019 to 2020. Five of the nine students have since returned to their studies including one who returned in the 2020 to 2021 academic year six of these cases were quote unquote "urgent situations" in which a student's behavior posed a quote-unquote "significant risk of harm to others." Lead reviewer professor Donald Ansley hopefully i'm saying that right said that when a situation is designated as quote "urgent "it quote "allows the university to remove the student from campus and protect the university community" unquote Ansley also noted that in the 2019-2020 academic year division heads requested the Vice it's Provost right i think i'm saying that right you invoked the policy seven times the authorization was only granted for one case data on the number of unlap requests from division heads was not tracked in 2018 to 2019 in an email to the varsity a U of T spokesperson said that division heads have requested that the unlock be invoked three times so far in the 2020-21 academic year all three requests were granted by the Vice Provost Students this brings the number of times the UMLAP has been invoked since its approval in June 2018 to a total of 12. So full data for the 2020-2021 academic year will not be released until the fall which would be this fall. 12, so 12 students have been placed on on academic leave i actually it's come up in our campaign and as you're reading the quote it came to mind um there's a lot that goes into these stats and we've done a lot of thinking about the stats the the urgent situations i want to say also allow the OVPS to sort of skip all the procedural stuff that is is required for a situation one and actually allows um the admin to place a student only for five days where they review the case um it's not clear what happens in those five days fine - the other worrying thing that's that stands out to us from these reports and these numbers come from the OVPS reports is the 2019 academic year is a seven to one ratio of division heads asking for this policy to be invoked and that imbalance sort of indicates like how many times like division heads are sort of doing the wrong thing they seem to be aligned in the next year but like again it's not indicative of like necessarily that the division heads like sort of understand now just because we have a small like sample set it's just the 2019 number just REALLY stood out to me it's very concerning. Yeah for sure i think too one thing that comes to mind for me is we published a piece in our first issue which came out last month about the recent deaths by suicide of students at university of toronto for those outside of the Uof T community who may not know there have been quite a few students sadly who've been who've died by suicide in the past couple of years on campus and one of the things the writer highlighted was this kind of attitude from the university admin which is like "it's not our problem like it's not our problem to take care of you and make sure you're doing okay that's something that you know should be done outside of the university" and i i mean i've had like okay let me back up a little bit so we have some structures in place where Miriam and i attend school at a Emmmanuel College where we have places where people can go and people people that people can talk to when things are which shit is hitting the fan when things are getting pretty bad and i just wonder like i guess for me Emmanuel seems to be doing better than some other colleges i don't know how you what you think Mir we have chaplains who are available and also very caring faculty and instructors i just wonder about some of these students who really seem to be falling through the cracks yeah i'm not really sure what my question is maybe it's just more of a comment feeling that like my heart breaks for those students who are not - there's seems to be like there's nobody there for them yeah and i'll say like as now i've been an undergrad in the arts and science faculty and also a professional student the undergrad plate the the faculty is just so big and you get lost in it and you're required to do all these procedural things like i've always sort of had an interest in policy and law but when i entered undergrad i had no idea what was happening right and so like i can't imagine for students who don't necessarily have that like skill set just to like obviously it's horrible for them to navigate it themselves but i can't believe that the admin thinks that they can do that like the the student can like survive in that kind of system and so even you know i disagree with the premise that you know the university has no responsibility to its students but even if we were to accept that the actual processes that they put in place for these kinds of reviews just like it's completely unfair to students yeah we we uh we're...sorry Mir were you going to say something?
My experience with my schooing has been to work things out with my professor directly and i can only do that because there's safety there in that relationship and my classes are like 10, 10 to 30 people so there's relationship there but in classes undergrad classes of 400 people that cannot happen so just a comment and advocating as a person in her 30's is different from advocating for yourself at 18, 19, 20 years old.
So that's been in my mind as as we're talking. Yeah yeah and and the other thing we were talking about accommodations and exercising them another thing that is
stands out in the process is that students often have to advocate for themselves to their professors which by the way is actually mentioned is something explicitly not to do in OHRC policy but yeah yeah demands a lot of advocacy skills that the university does not sort of train you for. No no, you learn them because you NEED to learn them but you also need support in learning them.
Yeah for sure um maybe this this kind of i think segues pretty well into thinking about a undergraduate student who we're just going to talk about her story. In 2019 - she's a second year undergrad student at the University of Toronto Mississauga which is about you know i mean i live right by it so on a good day it's maybe like a 20–25 minute drive outside of Toronto - so she went to UTM health and counseling center which is like a there's a place there where you can see mental health nurses there's psychiatrists there's different counselors you can see doctors and that kind of stuff and she she went there because she was experiencing suicidal ideation so unfortunately the they told her that the psychiatrist she couldn't see a psychiatrist for over a month which is ridiculous and the mental health nurse wasn't there that day so she was able to see like just normal nurse and after they talked they came up with a safety plan that included staying the night with the friend who had accompanied her to the appointment and what happened after just after the appointment is the campus police came to have a "talk with her" quote-unquote which is what it's it was called about her prior plan to harm herself arrested her literally handcuffed her and took her to Credit Valley Hospital which is about maybe like a 10-5-10 minute drive away even though she told them she was 100% willing to go to the hospital there was no problem she was like "yeah i'll go" and she experienced two panic attacks on route to the hospital and vomited on herself and apparently the officers were just like totally indifferent to what was going on and i guess another one of these questions that i have like "why is the world like this?" question is is THIS really the best we can do for our students who are experiencing mental distress? and i put in i put after that insert exasperated emoji because like i'm just so exasperated going through all this stuff it just i don't even know what to say. Yeah yeah and sort of it sort of speaks to like the idea that you know the university needs protection from these students and the students need protection from themselves which is something that we it's a recurring theme the other sort of idea that comes up here is the um the idea that like a student in crisis is Violent (capital V) which quote unquote requires response by a police i don't know if it's because they just call the police because there's no other option or because like of a fear of violence or whatever but either way that's clearly not the right response. I'm also not sure that the university really understands the like inherent problem with using police as their first line of
contact with the student they in any sort of situation of like a security risk even when it's not like UMLAP related or crisis related they'll sort of jump to the campus police without first considering alternatives and so in this particular situation like police should never have been involved and they say we've heard from admin that they are reviewing their handcuffing policy but we haven't actually heard and anything which is kind of concerning because you think they would have learned their lesson with UMLAP and like consulting with students about this but you know yeah. My question would be like like so so if we if the university does that then students were not feel safe accessing care at the university which is accessible care for most people and so i know i know there's a
one patient privacy there's a cause to say about harm to yourself or harm to others you can you can break privacy but if the nurse had made this security plan with the student and saw that she they had a friend to to go home with then a question about this is like
why did that nurse break
confidentiality? Yeah i mean you sort of hit on an issue that we're actually reaching out to external legal organizations about just because we a lot of our expertise is in like the equity related reasons like the obvious like human rights kind of thing we know not much about health law and privacy of information i can say i i feel and i'm saying like me like just a person yeah feel as i'm speculating that the university has a very like laissez-faire view towards privacy and disclosure we we know that in UMLAP procedure there's sort of one consent given at the beginning and then it's sort of like the information gets spread to like the whole case management team like all the doctors that are involved and like we're not exactly sure about the legality of that the other thing that comes up with the policy is usually for re-entry the university will require their own psych assessment still not entirely clear about the sort of line between what's admissible like what's proper and what's coercive because you're not allowed to coerce somebody into a psychic assessment and so like information and privacy related concerns are something that we're bringing up for i think for the first time the second time around and yeah so like tbd on that point but it's definitely important to consider.
Yeah that sounds super important super important Alicia i added one extra thought to our little google doc that i'd sent you today when i was just thinking through what we were gonna talk about and one of the things they talk about in narrative therapy is this sort of phrase "the person is not the problem the problem is the problem" and so it seems to me like the university is seeing the person as the problem here more than the problem so for me i was thinking today the problem sort of seems to me like it's the situation in which the student finds themselves like for example you know they're anxious from school pressure they're away from home they're isolated especially during this time of covid they can't get they can't see their friends and family blah blah blah maybe they haven't been receiving the kind of care that they need whether that's mental health care or whatever so i wanted to ask you you know what do you see as the problem here and how can we move away from seeing the person as the problem and try to focus on the actual problems? yeah so um i'll also say like in 2017, 2018 something that SBA did is sort of that came out of UMLAP was um create the communities of care campaign so we started to host workshops building skills like crisis intervention stuff in the community not at the admin level and i say this because it is very clear from talking to them that they just fundamentally don't understand that every interaction a student has with the admin is inherently like hostile or adversarial we raise the issue of like lack of legal representation because to this date one student has tried to appeal but withdrew their application and so actually no cases have gone to like the stage of the process where dls will represent a student and so they just think that the power imbalance is not there, i like we were trying to explain this to somebody and like we actually had to like explain it but it seems so obvious to us and so from our perspective to students it's obvious what the problem is the problem is a problem but from the university's point of view it's the student because like in this in this quote unquote "equal relationship" of power and like like willingness to do stuff like why isn't the student complying with accommodations and you know why aren't they like responding to medical treatment and so it's a lot of the campaign thus far has been trying to get it across to the university that like this is a reality.
So i wonder what justice would look like like can UMLAP be rewritten to be more community care focussed? Or or is it like not not fixable? Ans should it be abolished?
So the stance SBA has taken in the first go-around and now remains the same we advocate for like a complete revocation of the policy and the reason we do that is because there never should have been a policy in the first place it's just so clear that the faculty sorry the admin just doesn't have the like the i don't know what else to call it so like the ideological basis for enacting a policy that actually respects a disabled student nor an adequate like health system support system and so like any attempt to impose a compassionate leave is fundamentally flawed they uh lost my train of thought...
Um yes right alternatives that's what i want to say! Sorry um the OHRC actually mentioned our policy and their policy on accessible education for post-secondary students they cited U of T's own lab as an example of what not to do which like U of T always loves like press i don't know if this is good press but so they sort of cited and in actual policy itself they suggest a voluntary leave a thing as a part of a proper accommodations regime so not mandated at all it's not even in the questionnaire and so something that the admin keeps bringing up is like okay so if you want UMLAP to be revoked should you go back to the student code of conduct where like things are disciplinary and like there are more than two options that's what we're kind of saying like you know like the university has a lot of like internal introspective work to do before they even consider like anything like UMLAP and also we should have a volunteer leave policy because that is something that you know students do need and and also the voluntary leave policy should not have any re-entry conditions because that also is still retaining power and control and discretion for the OVPS so yeah.
Yeah those are some great ideas i really hope as we move forward that the university will listen to SBA and to some of the other students who have been bringing their their experiences forward and talking about what it's like to be a mad student i mean i think sort of kind of some closing thoughts here i i think i often think and see in my own some of my own research that a lot of people who write about mad topics may not necessarily be mad themselves so there's a bit of a disconnect between like lived experience live knowledges and then like the actual book that you're writing (same for disabled people) and i wonder...yeah yeah... this is one thing that really bugs me and i see some of the some of the same stuff here when i was looking over the the literature i was thinking like you know if the admin had some of these i don't know if i want to use the word vulnerabilities but vulnerabilities themselves would they be treating people this way? And if their kid had some thing going on in their lives where they were finding it hard to be at school would they be treating the students this way? And i just i just kind of want to put that out into the ether for people that to think about. Yeah yeah something else that you know what you were saying raises for me is the the fact that like the student support team under the UMLAP is actually put together before the student actually knows UMLAP is being applied to them so it's student support team notification of UMLAP meeting with support team and it's just so paternalistic like the students own medical professionals even if they do have that care the student's own medical professionals are only like added as a secondary measure and like considered and so you can imagine what actually happens when the student wants to advocate for themselves and say like i need this thing or i do this thing you know i i think the university needs to realize that like when a student needs says they need something like that's it like there's no discussion there's no like oh but can you do this like no negotiation and they need to realize that the only experts on someone's disability is that person themselves and that's like a fundamental lesson they like really need to learn before they do anything that they just haven't sort of been accountable to.
Yeah wow for sure. Mir do you have any closing thoughts that you want to want to add?
I would just add that the journal like we are a tiny tiny journal but we want to support SBA and continue to have these sorts of conversations we didn't go into it here but Amy and I will probably delve into some theological reflection on these achieve it immediate name of a delve into some theological reflection on these thoughts some concerns, becuase it raises so many questions about dignity and worth and on
advocacy that matter, matter so much. Yeah we definitely appreciate support and i mean it's not like you said that you're a tiny journal like that it's not that doesn't mean anything like something that has come up time and time again in other campaigns too is that admin likes numbers so the more people that say stuff you know but specifically it's not just because these problems that i've raised today like have come up again and again the admin knows oh yeah there's nothing new we can say except for and like the fact that they're not doing anything just keeps requiring like students to disclose like really horrible events and stuff and yeah but i mean your journal perhaps and this goes out to anybody who might have like a unique experience like something you're trying to do right now is add the the voices of non-Canadian students to the conversation because that hasn't really been a part of anybody's focus so like contributions like that that you're you're seeing are missing from the overall discourse or like obviously welcome and yeah.
Yeah interesting well i hope we can stay in stay in contact and have further dialogue about this stuff and Alicia i think i might um if you don't mind i might send you a link to one of the articles or sort of invited commentaries that we just published last month but i guess like in closing i just wanted to mention this article because it's written by two of our colleagues who who raised the the concern about people with disabilities being considered "disposable burdens" in our society especially during this time of covid and i feel like the UMLAP is reinforcing some of those feelings in to me anyway when i read when i read through this stuff i was like oh man i just because of my own i'm a mad identified student a psychiatric system survivor and i it just made me feel like a piece of crap so anyway for anyone who wants to sort of like think through the whole disposable burden thing and think about that theologically we can link that wherever we end up posting this podcast but it's the it's the article in our first issue by Alexa Gilmore and Elizabeth Mohler - that's right yes thanks Mir. Yeah oh my Alexa is now talking to me because she thought that i was talking to her so uh i'll just mute myself for a sec oh no she's done okay anyways uh alicia i just want to invite you to add some of your closing thoughts if there's anything else you wanted to say as we're wrapping up. Yeah i mean in the context of this immediate like consultation process they've been asking students what they think about the policy i think expecting responses about the sort of PR nightmare they're finding themselves in like students don't want to access mental health supports because they worry about UMLAP being appled to them even though it's supposed to be in the rare case etc like i want to suggest that a meaningful review would have the university sort of looking inwards and asking themselves like the ideological underpinnings influencing their dealings with disabled students the ways that their ideas have caused and are causing violence to students and the ways that they repeatedly fail to show up for students including creating systems of support that people can trust and also consider alternatives to UMLAP which you know we've been challenged to do but you know i'm throwing it back to them too like you know you're you're obviously saying there's a lot of like criticism of this policy so like have you considered anything else is the question we're asking yeah yeah good question very good question well it sounds like a good note to leave it on so thank you Alicia it's been so great to talk to you yeah it's been great being here!